Perched on a rocky promontory towering over the Maine river, the château d’Angers is an impressive monument with a singularly lengthy history. The land on which it lies once featured a Neolithic sepulcher, a Gallic oppidum, the heart of a Roman town, and a huge Roman counts’ palace. During the 13th century the mother of King Saint Louis, Blanche of Castille, chose it as the site for a gigantic, half-kilometer-long enclosure punctuated by no less than seventeen shale and limestone towers. The resulting fortress conveyed an impression of unlimited power and its elaborate military architecture rendered it practically impregnable. That said, adaptations of the château to the evolution of artillery and its utilization as prison and barracks led to the disappearance of some of the medieval buildings. Be that as it may, from the height of its ramparts, on the parapet walk, the panoramic view of Angers is breathtaking.
During the 14th and 15th centuries, the dukes of Anjou Louis I, Louis II and King René, close to the King of France, who were are also counts of Provence and claimants of Italian territories, set up court at Angers. The Château d’Angers conserved within the enclosure – the chapel, the gatehouse and the royal lodgings -, along with the Apocalypse Tapestry, attest to the sustained interest of enlightened princes in architecture and works of art.
Given its dimensions -100 meters long -, its antiquity and its technical and stylistic virtuosity, the Apocalypse Tapestry is an extraordinary masterpiece of medieval art, one of a kind.
Commissioned in the late 14th century by Louis I, brought into being in record time, it consists in six sections, each of which features two different styles and contains fourteen scenes. King Jean de Bruges’ official painter was the creator of the sketches on the basis of which the tapestry was woven. A large-scale work possibly originally aimed at bolstering the status of Louis’ Valois dynasty, it offers an illustration of the Book of Revelation, last book of the Bible. The tapestry is also a major source of information on the historical, social and political context of its creation, which was highlighted by the Hundred Years’ War. As one of most renowned cathedral tapestries in Europe (up until the French Revolution, it was displayed in Angers Cathedral), it is now exhibited in the château.
The Château d’Angers is also the site of exceptionally diversified gardens: the regular garden with its yews and box trees, the vines, the vegetable garden, the rose garden, the hortensia garden, the hanging garden with its medicinal, tinctorial, maleficent plants… Some of the above are depicted in the Apocalypse Tapestry. Associating history and an innovatve approach favoring sustainable development, the gardens are a haven for walkers. To keep this heritage site alive, the national estate of the château regularly regales visitors with temporary exhibitions in the royal lodgings … and in the gardens, as well.